Myrosinase is a cytosolic plant enzyme present in daikon ( Raphanus sativus, Japanese white radish) roots that hydrolyzes 4-methylthio-3-butenyl glucosinolate (MTBGLS) into the natural pungent agent 4-methylthio-3-butenyl isothiocyanate (MTBITC), which possesses antimicrobial, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic properties. The concentration of MTBGLS, myrosinase activity, and production of MTBITC in seven daikon varieties (one conventional and six heirlooms) were determined to rank the activity of the glucosinolate-myrosinase system and identify critical factors influencing the production of MTBITC. The six heirloom varieties produced 2.0-11.5 times higher levels of MTBITC as compared to the conventional variety, Aokubi, which is consumed by the present Japanese population. The myrosinase was located exclusively in the outer epidermal layer in Aokubi, and MTBGLS was widely distributed throughout the root tissue. Although the skin is a potentially rich source of myrosinase in Aokubi, the skin is usually peeled off in the current practice of preparing daikon for cooking. New practices are therefore proposed for the preparation of daikon tubers that eliminate the peeling of the skin to avoid removing the enzyme needed to convert MTBGLS to the health-beneficial MTBITC. It is also concluded that the consumption of heirloom daikon varieties in addition to changes in food preparation will optimize the health benefits of daikon.